Medium To Be The Message, Fallon The Messenger In New Mag Ad Effort

The magazine industry is about to engage the kind of large-scale advertising effort that's more akin to a major consumer brand than a media trade campaign. It also tapped ultra hot brand agency Fallon to handle the effort.

On Friday, the Magazine Publishers of America announced the launch of a three-year, $40 million dollar initiative aimed at promoting the effectiveness of print to Madison Avenue in the arena that members believe magazines can best challenge other media: user engagement.

The initiative will be led by the newly formed Magazine Marketing Coalition, which includes more than two dozen executives from MPA member companies, including publishers and distribution partners such as printing and paper companies.

Jack Kliger, president and CEO of Hachette Filipacchi and vice-chairman of the MPA board, will lead the coalition.

Kliger said that the magazine industry has been struggling on two fronts. "There has definitely been a feeling that magazines, like other mature media, haven't been benefiting from the recovery," he said.

But that is only part of the problem, according to Kliger, who says that regardless of economic conditions, the medium has always been under-promoted. "We are the Rodney Dangerfield of the business," he said. "We don't get no respect."

"One of our strongest points is that we develop strong individual brands. Yet we as an industry have not done a very strong ongoing job of promoting magazines in general."

As part of this new promotional effort, the MPA and its members appear poised to take the fight right to the TV business. Officials acknowledge that magazine advertising has suffered against TV, as many underestimate the medium's ability to deliver quick results in an increasingly ROI-obsessed climate.

Nina Link, president and CEO of MPA, said that magazines don't always get the credit they deserve for their ability to drive business results. "We have been undervalued as a medium," Link said. She pointed out that several recent pieces of research, such as the cross-media study released last week by Dynamic Logic, show that print can actually outdeliver other media when it comes to return on investment.

If print is undervalued, it's TV that may be overvalued, according to Link.

"Our biggest hurdle is that television has been the 400-pound gorilla in the room," she said. "People tend to make emotional decisions about TV. But this year, there have been cracks in the armor."

Given those cracks in the armor--i.e., the infiltration of commercial-skipping technology like TiVo and continuously swooning network TV ratings--magazines are well-situated to deliver such a message.

"It seemed to be the perfect time," she said. "The industry seems really ready and excited."

While the coalition plans to communicate magazines' ability to affect ROI and even deliver reach, the key attribute of magazines that the group plans to sell is that of reader engagement.

"Magazines represent incredible engagement," said Link. "That is the holy grail for advertisers at a time when there are a lot of interruptive messages."

Of course, the MPA has been a major proponent of the engagement metric, having commissioned the Northwestern University Reader Experience Study, which attempted to quantify such values.

If they are able to make their case, including delivering some more compelling data that proves engagement, "the challenge will be to other media," said Link. "[On engagement], we will win every time."

Link and Kliger were not able to provide many details of the campaign, which will include various elements of advertising and marketing tactics. "This will not be a traditional trade campaign," said Link. "There will probably be surprises."

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